Sunday, November 30, 2008

Boo's first email

Boo missed school so much she wanted to write her teacher an email. Here it is. The only thing I spelled for her was "hello" because she was having trouble getting started.
Honestly, I didn't even know Yahoo Mail had emoticons and stationary until now.
[Don't mind my crappy-looking name censoring.]

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Squash and the Great American Tradition

As you all know, I have a thing about butternut squash. I know, I’m weird. Anyway, I keep talking about this recipe, so here it is. You can find it online here, but I’m posting it with a few changes.


• 2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch slices
• Salt and pepper
• 4 tablespoons plus 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
• 1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced paper thin and briefly sautéed
• 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
• 1 tablespoon dried oregano
• 1 clove garlic, sliced paper-thin
• Some chopped fresh rosemary (or mint)

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Season the squash with salt and pepper, drizzle with 4 tablespoons olive oil, and place in a single layer on 1 or 2 cookie sheets.
  3. Bake in the oven until just tender, about 18 to 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, briefly saute the onion, garlic, and rosemary.
  5. Stir together the sauted ingredients and the remaining oil, vinegar, chili flakes, oregano, and season with salt and pepper. Remove the squash from the oven and pour the marinade over.
  6. Allow to cool for 20 minutes in the marinade and serve. This dish can be made earlier in the day but should not be refrigerated.

I’m not planning on making this for our big feast on Thursday, but for people who dislike cloyingly sweet potato recipes (as do I, no marshmallows here), this could be a really nice change. N and I loved it when I made it last week. The kids, not so much.

This year is our second annual “cook side dishes ahead with a friend.” Tish and I are doing corn pudding, mashed sweet potatoes, and the veggie prep for the stuffing on Wednesday. Then she takes her half home and serves it up with tofurkey or something.

So, our menu is:
cheese n crackers, veggies with dip (appetizer)
corn pudding
mashed sweet potatoes
green salad
pecan and pumpkin pies

Pretty basic and standard, but oh how I love it all.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

She’s a brute. I mean, beaut.

Yesterday we moved a 3000 lb giant machine into our garage, and I've never been more scared in my life.

So, N drives up in the biggest rental truck ever. On the back, is, of course, Big Bertha. The truck has a mechanical lift on the back that’s rated to 3000 lbs. Which is good. And the lift is very small. Which is not good. Please note that the lift doesn’t have any lip or edge of any kind. So if we push the grinder a little too far, what we’ll have is a 3000 lb worthless metal roadblock in the driveway. I have to say, not getting maimed/killed was really my top priority for the day at this point.

N had borrowed a
pallet lifter from work. It's the orange thing in the second photo. We had already had a steel pallet made and bolted to Bertha. The pallet lifter is basically all manual. With the lifter you can jack Bertha up, but then N and I have to push and pull the giant thing by human effort alone. Carefully.

We’re just getting warmed up and are pushing the pallet lifter around on the truck when one of our neighbors, Bruce, happens by. He’s just had major back surgery, but he knows about moving heavy stuff around, from his job as a maintenance guy at U of I. He stood around and gave us advice, which sounds totally annoying, but actually was a lot of help.

You’ll notice that there are photos with Bertha on the truck and photos with Bertha on the ground. The part in between was much too nerve-wracking to document. It involved a lot of maneuvering and then Bruce held the lift switch while N and I held a strap around Bertha to keep her from wobbling off the platform. “Don’t wrap the strap around your arm,” said Bruce. “If it starts falling, just let it go,” said N. I quietly wet myself.

Well, it's all sunshine and roses from here on out. When N builds out the side of the garage, we’ll have to get a pallet lifter again to move her into her final position. That will be a complete breeze compared to yesterday. We are NEVER doing anything that stupid again.

We’ll be spinning carbide into gold by spring.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Please help me give to charity this holiday season

I have tons to do at work today, and many other things I want to blog about, but I realize that I need to remind you all that all Amazon proceeds from this site go to Heifer International. And here we are, getting ready for the big holiday shopping extravaganza. Please remember to click through from Bluestem! Thanks, all!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The first rule of book club, er, broken

November book club included the bonus of a toy swap that also ended up including clothing hand-me-downs. Almost everything I brought found a nice new home, hurrah! Went home with a few toys and a lovely bag of mostly t-shirts, which were a huge hit back home.

December book club will feature:

  • Book swap (bring 2-5 books to trade)
  • Tacky gift exchange (object from around the house strongly encouraged)
  • Book to discuss:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rust ring in pediatric patient - resolved

Back home with Nea, watching Lightning McQueen do his thing. Will be making popcorn soon. That Lightning, he’s crazy! We’ll be kicking back and relaxing the rest of the day.

The nurse said Nea was her best pediatric patient ever, and I could tell she meant it. They took her back (without me) in a little red wagon just like ours. She didn’t cry or fuss at all. After the procedure, she was crying, but not for long, and not until I was holding her.

Dr. G said the area of her cornea he scraped off was “mushy,” so I’m thinking it needed to go. Ick.

Moral of the story: if your kid gets a tiny bit of metal in her eye, and it leaves a rust ring, just go have it cut out. Waiting two weeks didn't help at all.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Man, I can't wait!

5 Signs President-Elect Obama Is a Geek

I'm so excited! Many members of my family and friends are also geeks! I, however, am only somewhat geeky. Although having created my first Google map for work (tutorial) certainly is making me feel like a run for the Alpha Geek status of my household. I can take N down for wiki development, FrontPage, etc., but I think he holds the upper hand for Excel formulas.

OK, I'm sounding more geeky by the minute. I do have all my telephone and address lists in Excel. That's probably a bad sign. Hmmm. Also, there's this blog.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The siren's call of the opinion page

[from here]

I have enjoyed political cartoons since way, way back. I remember not understanding a lot of them. I also read Mike Royko from when I was old enough to read until his death (in 1997, Goz). Since having kids, though, I stepped back from staying as informed as I had been. A big part of that, of course, was bringing kids into the post-9/11 world. Being a parent is terrifying enough when your country isn’t the target of the crazies.

But now! Now is an exciting time to start paying attention again. Here’s a good source for your daily fix, if you enjoy them, too. And I've vowed to start listening to more NPR again.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Tips on dealing with United HealthCare (UHC)

If you need a new hobby, please consider the joy of insurance claim phone calls! I have two obviously fraudulent claims with UHC. One: I want them to pay me back for my eye exam, which is covered at 100%. Two: I want them to help pay for Nea’s speech therapy. I know, I know. Crazy talk.

After, lo, these many painful hours of dealing with UHC, I’m ready to share my knowledge.

When calling, after you enter your subscriber number and date of birth, say “representative” if you want to talk to a person. When you are on hold, if you say "shut up" the recording will stop telling you about their worthless web site. You may need to say it a few times. Forcefully.

If the person on the phone can’t help you, ask for a “rapid resolution specialist.” They can fix things the Tier One people can’t. And they won’t tell you the magic phrase (“rapid resolution specialist”) until you’ve wasted hours of your life. If they don't want to pass you on, just keep using the magic phrase: "I'd like to speak with a rapid resolution specialist.”

If you have an ongoing complicated case, ask to be assigned a “care coordination case number.” It probably won’t help, but it’s worth a shot.

If you want them to cover an out-of-network provider at the in-network level, you need a "gap exception" -- another magic phrase they won't tell you about. If you are lucky enough to get a gap exception, make sure you take the reference number to your provider! UHC won't do that for you, so you'll continue to be billed at the out-of-network rate.

When faxing, don’t bother. You can fax and fax and fax, even “to the attention of” someone’s name, and they will claim it didn’t arrive or is illegible.

Just now I found the Patient Advocate Foundation.
They list all the State Insurance Commissioners Offices contact info, which probably would be worth a try if you have been trying to get UHC to cough up for a few months without any resolution in sight.

And my number one tip? Switch to another insurance company as soon as your company lets you. Thank god my long nightmare is nearly over.

If you have any tips, please post a comment! If any of these tips help you, please shop Amazon through my link. All proceeds go to charity.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

National Obama Day

Did you notice the sun is shining more brightly today? The trees, they are so vibrant. The birdies, they sing so sweetly. Verily, it is the dawn of a better time.

If you haven't seen it yet, treat yourself to the victory speech.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Big Day

Last week we counted political lawn signs. Obama won 2 to 1.
Yesterday Boo’s kindergarten class voted. Obama won 3 to 1.

Let’s hope he wins for real today. I’m hoping for a definitive victory by 10 pm so we can all get a nice restful night’s sleep. Not like that 2000 election.

My predictions? By the end of today:

  • My nails will be very short.
  • I will have consumed several beers.
I’m actually downtown today for some training, so let’s just see how crazy it gets down here. I’m expecting a fairly normal day, since I’m not driving, and I hope to take an early train home.

Saturday, November 1, 2008



In my excitement, I neglected to explain what Bertha is, exactly. She’s a Brown & Sharpe 6" X 18" Visual Grinder. You can procure your own on eBay, of course. The go-to source for all your heavy industrial equipment needs. Watch those shipping costs, though! They’re a killer.

Once you have one, you can start grinding carbide to specification within 1/10,000th of an inch, like all the cool kids! N assures me you can grind other things, too.